Hamilton says revamped McLaren have title shot
Lewis Hamilton believes he and the McLaren team will mount a serious title bid in the second half of this season, starting with the Hungarian GP. Preview: Gordon Howard
Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 drivers’ champion, who was forced to retire from last Sunday’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, said he can challenge for victory this weekend at Budapest’s Hungaroring circuit based on the McLaren team’s overall performance and speed last weekend.
Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button took second at Hockenheim behind the triumphant Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, who leads the title race. Hamilton was forced out of the race with a gearbox problem after earlier snags including a puncture collected on lap two, but said the weekend left him optimistic.
“There’s every good reason to feel confident – our upgrade package seems to have delivered the pace we anticipated,” he said.
“Things haven’t always gone our way in the first half of this year, but I certainly feel like we’re experiencing something of a turning point for the whole team now.
“We’ve really stepped up and delivered the pace we needed, our strategy has been spot-on and our pit stops, despite a troubled start at the beginning of the year, are now consistently the fastest in the pit lane.”
McLaren produced a near-miraculous 2.31-second stationary time for their best stop, timed at 2.4s by the sport’s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA).
The team believe that after problems earlier in the year they are now set to enjoy a spell of sustained excellence on the track and in the pit lane.
“We still have issues, the same as any other team in the pit lane, so we will still have stops where things happen, but the guys have a really good margin now,” said sporting director Sam Michael.
“If they do a 3.1-second stop, it feels incredibly slow and that’s pretty much the stop time that everybody else is doing. So they have got the margin to lose seven or eight tenths and, while not the quickest, still be very competitive.”
That vital improvement in a key area has boosted optimism in the team that they can catch their rivals, and for Hamilton give him a chance to catch the supremely confident Alonso in the title race.
Hamilton is now fifth in the championship, 62 points behind Spaniard Alonso, after an opening half to the season marked by strong pace and some good results mixed with lapses in pace and pit-lane blunders. Despite a miserable 100th Grand Prix at Hockenheim, those problems seem to be behind him, if he is to be believed.
Red Bull must change engine mapping
Meanwhile, defending constructors champions Red Bull have been forced to change their engine mapping for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix.
The International Motoring Federation (FIA) yesterday confirmed a clarification to the technical regulations that effectively closed a loophole in the rules.
Red Bull are believed to have been running their cars – driven by defending drivers world champion Sebastian Vettel and title contender Australian Mark Webber – with mapping that allowed them to run with reduced torque in the mid-rpm range.
This is perceived to have given them an illegal performance advantage that was identified last weekend at the German Grand Prix where the stewards, when presented with an FIA report on the matter, ruled that the cars were not breaking the rules as written.
The FIA has since re-written the rules and clarified the issues in order to ensure that the Red Bull cars will not continue to take any advantage.